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Church of England initiates first steps to allow gay priests to marry

The Church of England has initiated steps towards allowing gay clergy members to marry.

The General Synod, the Church’s legislative body, voted to approve proposals that set the stage for a report on same-sex civil marriage ceremonies between clergy members or between a clergy member and a lay person.

Church leaders will reconvene in February to further discuss the possibility and consider steps to permit blessings for same-sex couples in standalone services, which resemble marriage ceremonies closely.

These developments build on proposals agreed upon in November, when the Synod voted to allow blessings for same-sex couples during regular church services on a trial basis.

Image Credit: Canva

According to ‘Telegraph’, the proposals received significant support, passing by 22 votes to 12 in the House of Bishops and by 99 votes to 88 among the clergy. Among the laity, the vote was much closer, passing by just four votes, with 95 in favour and 91 against.

The proposals have met with considerable criticism from conservative-leaning groups within the Church.

Rev Canon John Dunnett, the national director of the Church of England Evangelical Council, remarked: “I was born in the Church of England. But if the prayers of love and faith bus continues in the same direction, I sometimes wonder whether I will die as a member of the Church of England or not.”

Rev Will Pearson-Gee, a rector from Buckinghamshire, stated: “I think it could be a watershed moment. They’ve woken up a sleeping giant. Up until now we’ve just been disinterested, but people have been radicalized.”

Rev Ian Paul, a member of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, commented: “It has now become clear and open that there are bishops who do not believe the doctrine of the Church and are determined that it should change. They will drive this through no matter what the consequences. They seem to be out of touch with what many in the Church believe, and that this change is not something on which many of us can simply ‘agree to disagree’.”

This follows more than 25 church leaders writing to the archbishops of York and Canterbury last month, warning that such a change could be considered “unlawfulness” and threatening to form a “parallel province,” a separate autonomous grouping within the Church.

A conservative group known as The Alliance, claiming support from 2,000 clergy members, describes itself as an informal partnership of leaders from networks in the Church.

Tom Middleton, one of the letter’s signatories and the director of Forward in Faith, representing about 1,000 Anglican clergy, described the divide as “potentially the biggest since the Church of England was founded in the aftermath of the Reformation.” He continued, “It threatens the Church of England’s very existence.”

Ahead of the vote on Monday, the Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, called for unity between factions supporting and opposing same-sex blessings.

“The reality of the church as we live it is always messy,” he said to Church leaders in York. “That the Church flourishes as one is indispensable to the Gospel in this land. That the Church flourishes as one is essential to the Anglican community, which like all global churches, is deeply divided and seeking the support of each other.”

His comments reportedly came after closed-door discussions with those threatening to split over the stance.

Alongside proposals for same-sex blessings, the motion also included steps to establish pastoral care for those opposing the ministry of bishops who offer prayers of love and faith for same-sex couples.

Addressing the compromises involved, the Archbishop of York stated: “What’s before us isn’t what everyone wants, it’s not really what anyone wants, but it is an Anglican way forward.”

After the debate, the Archbishop of Canterbury emphasized: “The only way forward is a watertight and enduring protection of conscience.” He added, “The protection must have teeth to protect against harassment and bullying.”

Read related myGwork articles here:

Church Of England Blesses Same-Sex Couples For The First Time, But They Still Can’t Wed In Church

Church Of England Backs Plans For Trial Blessings Of Same-Sex Weddings

Majority of Church of England Priests Support Same-Sex Marriage, Study Finds

Church Of England To Draft Pastoral Guidance On Same-Sex Couple Blessings

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